Date of Award

2012

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

School

School of Exercise and Health Science

Faculty

Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Dr. Jodie Cochrane

Second Advisor

Dr. Sophia Nimphius

Third Advisor

Prof. Robert Newton

Abstract

A paucity of research exists investigating the potential relationship between the technical and temporal strategy of accurate and inaccurate kickers in response to physical parameters modifiable by athletic conditioning. While recent studies have produced improvements in performance when kicking for distance following structured resistance training interventions, no studies have examined the influence of such interventions on the enhancement of kicking accuracy. It was therefore the purpose of this thesis to extend scientific understanding of those mechanisms which might underpin accurate kicking performances through examining kinanthropometric, strength and muscularity profiles of accurate and inaccurate kickers in Australian Football using a series of research studies. In particular, studies one and two established valid and reliable measurement protocols, while studies three, four and five quantified whole-body composition, anthropometrics, segmental masses of the lower limbs, unilateral and bilateral lower-body strength, and lower limb kinematics during the drop punt. Study one established a standardised and reliable body positioning and scan analysis model using Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA) to accurately identify and assess appendicular segmental mass components (upper arm, forearm, hand, thigh, shank and foot segments); producing very high intra-tester reliability (CV ≤ 2.6%; ICC ≥ 0.941) and very high inter-tester reliability (CV ≤ 2.4%; ICC ≥ 0.961). This methodological determination of intralimb and interlimb quantities of lean, fat and total mass could be used by strength and conditioning practitioners to monitor the efficacy of training interventions; track athletes during long-term athletic development programs; or identify potential deficiencies acquired through-out injury onset and during rehabilitation. Study two assessed a portable isometric lower-body strength testing device, successfully demonstrating its ability to derive valid and reliable representations of maximal isometric force (peak force) under bilateral and unilateral conditions (CV ≤ 4.7%; ICC ≥ 0.961). This device was unable to reliably determine rate of force development across either bilateral or unilateral conditions (CV: 14.5% - 45.5%; ICC: 0.360 – 0.943); and required an extra second of contraction time to achieve peak force (p < 0.001). The portable apparatus may provide a more sport-specific assessment of maximal strength in sports where balance is an important component; such as the support leg during the kicking motion. Using the methodological approach established in study one; study three was a descriptive study which assessed the lower limb segmental profile of accurate and inaccurate kickers. A noticeable difference in leg mass characteristics was evident, with accurate kickers containing significantly greater quantities of relative lean mass (p ≤ 0.004; r = 0.426 to 0.698), significantly lower quantities of relative fat mass (p ≤ 0.024; r = -0.431 to -0.585), and significantly higher lean-to-fat mass ratios (p ≤ 0.009; r = 0.482 to 0.622) across all segments within both kicking and support limbs. To examine how these lower limb characteristics might adjust biomechanical strategy; study four used the methodological approach from study one in conjunction with three-dimensional kinematic data. No relationship was found between foot velocity and kicking accuracy (r = -0.035 to -0.083). Instead, it was the co-contribution of leg mass and foot velocity which were discriminatory factors between accurate and inaccurate kickers. A significant and strong correlation was also found between relative lean mass and kicking accuracy (p ≤ 0.001; r = 0.631). Greater relative lean mass within accurate kickers may heighten limb control due to reduced volitional effort and lower relative muscular impulses required to generate limb velocity. Study five - the final study of the thesis - assessed lower limb strength and muscularity using methodologies presented in studies one and two. Study five was able to successfully demonstrate a positive relationship between relative bilateral strength and support-leg unilateral strength with kicking accuracy outcomes (r = 0.379 to 0.401). A significant negative relationship was established between strength imbalances and kicking accuracy (p = 0.002; r = 0.516), supported by the significant positive relationship between the limb symmetry index for lean mass quantities and kicking accuracy outcomes (p = 0.003 to 0.029; r = 0.312 to 0.402). This highlighted the potential benefit of greater limb symmetry for strength and muscularity between kicking and support limbs within Australian Footballers, with particular emphasis placed toward support leg strength. The general conclusion provided by the thesis promotes the importance and positive influence of relative lean mass and lower body strength to kicking accuracy production during the drop punt. The findings provide a valid rationale for strength and conditioning professionals and skill acquisition coaches to properly consider an athlete’s strength, muscularity and body mass profiles when attempting to improve kicking performance. Given the cross-sectional nature of the Thesis, longitudinal resistance training studies should be attempted in future, to establish interventions which may heighten athletic conditioning and technical proficiency in football sports, with an express aim to improve drop punt kicking accuracy.

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